Sandy Hook Shooting
This is not a post about gun control. It is not a post about policy. It is not even a post about violence.
“More than 25 Dead, Including 18 Children, in Connecticut Elementary School Shooting”
When I read the above headline, though, I simply could not contain my tears. I still can’t – but I want to at least try to organize my thoughts. However, before I do I want to say this:
“If you haven’t grieved yet – please stop reading this. Mourn. Call your loved ones. Hug your children. Pray for Newtown, CT. I believe that our hearts need to first feel the sting of agony before we can say or do anything else.”
Once you’ve grieved – please find a church in Newton, CT and send a message of hope, support and love. God is going to use that community in a profound way – and they will desperately need our encouragement and prayers.
That said – I’m angry. Immeasurably angry. To be honest, an act of violence of this magnitude- inflicted upon helpless children – does things to my heart that I can’t fully describe. Honestly, I’m having a hard time thinking straight.
I do take some solace reading words from men much wiser than myself:
“A man who does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good. And a man that does not know how to be shaken to his heart’s core with indignation over things evil is either a fungus or a wicked man.” – Henry Ward Beecher
“The first thing to understand about anger is that it isn’t always a bad thing. Many people, especially Christians, have the mistaken notion that anger is intrinsically evil. As a result, they feel needless guilt. The idea that a Christian is never allowed to be angry is a demonic myth that tends to produce neurotic anxiety. I’ve had to struggle with this myth nearly all my life.” – R.C. Sproul
But even more than anger – I feel utterly, unreservedly heartbroken.
As a friend of mine wrote shortly after the news broke, “Something is tragically, unspeakably wrong.”
As images of parents running toward the school, screaming for some sort of clarity flashed all across my screen – as I observed panicked expressions of fear and distress worn heavily by mothers and fathers as they rushed to the scene – my heart absolutely broke. As I watched, one, single thought crossed my mind.
Evil is profoundly real.
I don’t think that anyone would have a hard time making that case – especially today. But in light of such tragedies, facing such obscene darkness – I can’t help but wonder what could possibly be expected of us in the aftermath.
Some will turn to hatred. But abolitionist Henry Beecher has some compelling thoughts to that end:
“There is no faculty of the human soul so persistent as that of hatred. There are hatreds of race, sect and social and personal hatreds. If thoughts of hatred were thunder and lightning, there would be a storm over the whole earth all the year round.” – Henry Ward Beecher
Some will turn to vengeance. Maybe vengeance towards the shooters family, policy makers, or school security. But I think professor Lour Priolo presents a convincing alternative.
“Ultimately, God is the One who will right all wrongs. Vengeance is lawlessness because it does not recognize the lawful and righteousness execution of God’s judgment which He will bring about in His time. In other words, vengeance amounts to being impatient with God. You must remember that wrongs cannot always be righted immediately.” – Lou Priolo
Of the two evils – I propose we choose neither.
Priolo later writes:
“The ultimate weapon to use against those who do evil is to love them: to meet their needs.” – Lou Priolo
But what does that even mean? How on Earth could anyone possibly share in a theology that proclaims that we are to “Love our enemies. Pray for those who torment you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)?
Is such a way possible? And if so – is it even fitting? How could God ever expect us to love those who inflict unthinkable evil on the most innocent of victims? Is such a theology utter madness?
Truthfully – sometimes it feels like it. But then I wonder if perhaps that’s the point.
“Because we are the most forgiven people in the world, we should be the most forgiving people in the world.” – C.J Mahaney
The love that has been imparted to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is unsettlingly scandalous and utterly outrageous. This is a truth that does us little good closed up behind church doors, tucked between well-polished pews. It absolutely must permeate our entire consciousness. Our formation must be effected – not just our liturgy.
Please hear me – I am not suggesting that we do not grieve. Quite the opposite, in fact. My challenge is that we think very carefully about how we proceed once the dust of anguished has settled. Consider:
“We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believers to suffer grief. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Though grief may reach to the roots of our souls, it must not result in bitterness. Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness.” – R.C. Sproul
And Dr. Erwin Lutzer offers:
“Grief [is] expected, but it is different from the grief of the world. There is a difference between tears of hope and tears of hopelessness.” – Erwin Lutzer
The Christian memorandum is that there is hope for a bankrupt humanity – hope of peace, hope of healing, hope of restoration – because Jesus stepped down from glory to clothe himself with humanity, weathering the agony of pain and sin – to hang on a cross for you and me. That by overcoming death – he might breathe new, eternal life into lungs of sorrow and separation.
We do not forgive, then, in order to earn God’s love, but because we’ve been loved in such a radical way – we are compelled to then forgive others, even our enemies. Even those who enact atrocious violence.
How can this hope not lead us to action – to a deeper conversation? How can it not strengthen our very fibers to enact love, grace, mercy, and compassion to those around us – to grieve with those who grieve? We bear the very image of the Creator who “pitched his tent” among the people of suffering. He is near. He is present. He tastes the bitterness of our tears and holds our weary hearts.
The empty tomb may not always give us understanding, but it most certainly provides much needed hope. I do not understand all that happens – but I know that He is good. And I know that we have a mission.
Grieve. Love. Persevere.
Rise up, Church. Pray. Shine the beacon of hope. May we have a better conversation. May we move to action.
Our battle is not against flesh and blood. We must not only know our enemy, but also our resources.
Long Live the Lamb.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18